On Wikileaks, on the Mexican student movement, on freedom of the press
[Translation of an article from La Jornada of Mexico City for June 22. See original here.]
by Stella Calloni
Rio de Janeiro, June 21 – The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, said on Thursday that countries should struggle to achieve real freedom of the press, as part of a broader concept, as well as the right of all citizens to freedom of expression, which the powerful media are intent on privatizing with the goal of making profits. In this respect, he pointed hopefully to the rebellion of the university students of Mexico in the face of the power of the media, which he described as at some times dictatorial.
Besieged by the international press concerning the asylum requested by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, now in refuge in the Ecuadorian ambassador in London, he argued that, independently of that request, the journalist has said that “he wants to go to Ecuador to continue fulfilling his mission in favor of untrammeled freedom of expression, because our country is a land of peace, committed to justice and truth. What Mr. Assange has said is closer to the reality of Ecuador than the garbage that the owners of the powerful media publish every day.”
During an interview with La Jornada, Carta Maior (of Brazil) and Página/12 (of Argentina) that lasted more than an hour, in a hotel in this city made over into the epicenter of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20, he commented that if in Ecuador “a hundredth of what was done to Assange had been done to anyone, we would be called dictatorial and repressive,” but since what he disclosed affects the great powers “and demonstrates the United States’ double standard, they have decided that it is necessary to apply the full weight of the law against Assange. And they call him a rapist.”
He added that he would not predict what his response will be. “We have received the request and we will analyze the factors and we will make a decision when it is appropriate. He is in our embassy in London under the protection of the Ecuadorian state.”
He denied that the matter will create tension between his government and Great Britain. “That is the last thing we would want, but we are not going to ask permission from any country to make sovereign decisions. Ecuador stopped being a colony long ago. We do not have the souls of vassals,” he declared.
“If relations were damaged by giving asylum, refuge, residence to fugitives from justice, Latin America would have very damaged relations with the United States because, as probably happens with Argentina, with Brazil, with Mexico, any fugitive who violates justice, which is not the case with Assange – I am referring to corrupt ones like the bankers who broke Ecuador in ’99 – flees to the United States and is welcomed there and enjoys a very comfortable life.”
Without doubt, the Assange case allows Correa to analyze the injustice of applying a double moral standard. “There are trials against newspapers in developed countries every day; there is no problem there because that is civilization, but to take a newspaper or a journalist to court in our country is considered barbaric. And it is not that we criminalize opinion, because they publish every day in our country and they say what they want to say and then they speak of the lack of freedom of expression. Anyone can say that the government is good, that it is bad, that it is a competent government or an incompetent one. But what cannot be said in the media is that the president, or any citizen, has committed crimes against humanity or claim, for example, that he has fired shots without warning at a hospital (as some media wrote at the time of the attempted coup against Correa in 2010), because that is not information. It is defamation; that is a crime in any country.”
He admitted that “there was a time when we felt very alone, when we were the victims of a tremendous attack because we did not bow our heads before very corrupt businesses, protected many times over by the shield of the freedom of expression. That is the struggle; there is no greater struggle.”
Asked about the release of Wikileaks cables in which Ecuadorian journalists appear who were considered “informants” for the United States embassy, he indicated that this shows that their lies are always exposed.
“We see entities that finance these media emporia, certain organizations that, in the name of civil society, denounce us before the Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH – Inter American Commission on Human Rights), before the Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa (SIP – Inter American Press Association) and find the doors suspiciously open, and now it turns out that these gentlemen are identified in Wikileaks as informants for the (United States) embassy. Not only that, these people are financed by USAID with 4.5 million dollars that these supposed defenders of the freedom of expression give them, supposedly to ‘strengthen democracy and strengthen civic action;’ but in reality, in opposition to the progressive governments of Latin America. In the face of that, we the peoples of Latin America must react.”
Concerning Mexico, he declared that there are excellent relations despite the fact that the government of the country “at the present time is of an ideological tendency different from ours.”
“It is a government that represents a sister country, and as with many center-right governments, we maintain close ties. Concerning the internal situation of the country, I will not express an opinion, nor about the elections. I only want the best of success for the Mexican people. But I will perhaps refer to the rebellion of the university students in the face of the powerful media. I hope this example is followed by all the youth in our America. They have to rebel. They have accused us of having dictatorships where there are progressive governments, as in Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia and others. Here the only dictatorship there has been an attempt to impose is the great media dictatorship, and the youth should rebel against these dictatorships.”
In a long discussion of different topics, from the dangers of the militarization of Latin America and foreign bases to the foundations and their destabilizing work, Correa asserted his good relations with “our America” and said that his government wants to have them with all countries in a framework of mutual respect.
He rejected attitudes like that of the spokeswoman for the State Department, Susan Jacobs, who stated that she was going to defend the SIP in the face of attacks by Ecuador because Correa rejects the CIDH’s denunciation of abuse by his government while it turns out that “we recognize” that commission, “while the United States has not even signed the San José pact. So we are no longer going to accept this double standard, and every time they make this scrutiny of us on human rights we are also going to make our examination on torture in Guantánamo, the false trials, the judicial farce against the Cuban patriots, etc. Ecuador has not been a colony for a long time and if there are governments that have not come to respect that independence, that sovereignty, that dignity of our country, now there is a government that makes itself respected.”
He stressed the advances in Unasur and other mechanisms of integration, although he admitted that it needs to move much more quickly.
He deems it necessary to advance in labor policies “so that we in Latin America will never again fall into the trap of competing to attract investments that damage and make more precarious the power of labor. We should agree on a regional minimum wage and thus, instead of attracting capital over the efforts, the tears and the sweat of the workers, we think of another world. I believe it is moving forward, but we have to go much faster.”
Finally, he warned that he will not attend “any Summit of the Americas from which Cuba is absent. If a country is excluded, then let it not be called a Summit of the Americas, but a conversation with the hegemonic power. As long as I am president, Ecuador will not attend an Summit of the Americas if Cuba is exclude.”
[You can now subscribe to an RSS feed for this website. Click here.]